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In between working on my second book in the Guardians of Masks and Memory series, I’ve found myself on Netflix more often, particularly on the Korean Drama side of Netflix. I started watching Eternal Monarch some months ago, but I wasn’t in the right place to really sit and pay attention, but after publishing book one and getting back into rough draft territory with a new idea, I’ve been consuming a lot of stories through film. Of course, when Squid Game came out I watched it because the advertisements were giving me Hunger Games, but somehow darker. Now after watching it, I see why! I’d totally recommend watching it as it was great storytelling and I loved all of the different perspectives in the story. Squid Game makes you think about what someone’s breaking point is. Everyone has one, so it’s scary to think of what could actually push you to go against your better nature. Squid Game is dark and gory, so if that’s not your jive, then I’d steer away. However, after starting Eternal Monarch and watching Squid Game my Netflix account has been recommending me a lot of films starring Asian actors, particularly Korean dramas. They’re mostly of the love story variety and I have no problem with that. Besides, this is the Hallmark lovey-dovey time of year anyway so why not expand to the Korean drama love story formula? Here’s what I’ve been watching…
This series ruined me in the best way. If you were to zoom out, you’d say that it’s a love story, but it’s not the kind of love story where everyone gets their love interest and runs into the sunset. This story deals heavily with death and I did not know that was what I signed up for. On top of that, I was watching the drama while I was going through my own real-life drama so it was quite cathartic. Even though death is a prominent subject, there is a wealth of comedy and you grow to love the characters with each episode as you learn more about them and how they died. I also really appreciate this show because death is one of those things that people don’t like to talk about. I mean, I know I don’t. Yet, this show emphasizes the importance of healing, letting go, dealing with your grudges, and letting yourself love someone in spite of…complications I’ll say. Listen, I cried so much it was a shame. This is one of my favorites if not my favorite drama. One other random note of praise is the set design for the hotel in the drama where dead souls stay. It was so colorful and whimsical with lots of different patterns. The design of the hotel made me think of Rodger’s and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, ya know the one with Brandy and Paolo Montalban. Everyone behind the camera and in front of it did a great job and I sincerely hope their careers continue to flourish.
Now we’re getting into the more grounded kind of shows. It was a little interesting watching this show after Hotel Del Luna because I was thinking about life after death a lot, but I slowly just focused on the land of the living a little more😉. The protagonist is this charming woman who works as a curator at an art museum by day but is a Korean pop music super fangirl whenever she can squeeze it in. She keeps her fangirl identity secret so that she doesn’t get ostracized for being a fangirl and this gets complicated when her new boss comes along. He’s the typical grouchy workaholic that needs to be reminded to enjoy life and smell the roses, so she helps him do just that. Though we only get to that point through a heap of misunderstandings on our leading man’s end. The initial misunderstanding itself (because there will be a few) was so noble and hilarious at the same time. He was really trying to be a good person and ended up assuming things, which made him look silly. However, what I really appreciated was all the hidden connections between the characters. It really tied the story together and made it feel complete when it came to the last episode. If you’re looking for something to lift your spirits, make you smile, and laugh, this show is for you.
I was excited to see more of Yeo Jin-goo’s work. I first saw him in Hotel Del Luna and I thought he played the part so well. However, in this period drama, he’s able to really show his range, playing a power-mad king and the peasant doppelganger who’s forced to take the throne in his place. I’m continuously fascinated with how he plays each character so well. You’d really believe that he has a twin with how well he’s able to slip into the two different characters. As far as the story goes, there are underhanded officials, secret assassination plots, forbidden romance between the peasant king and the very real queen, and I’m not even halfway done with the series yet. The parallel between the real king and the fake king is really interesting. When looking at life from the fake king’s perspective, I realized how much life can be taken for granted if you don’t romanticize the little things and remain grateful for those in your life. The real king didn’t seem to get the memo. I’ve never watched a Korean period drama before, so it was really refreshing to see historical fiction that wasn’t based in Europe and expand my horizons. It’s nice to have a more international mindset around stories and media because it reminds me that stories don’t just revolve around or belong to a select group of cultures, but that they are here for all of us.
These are just a few Korean dramas that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed as a consumer and as a storyteller. There are many more on my Netflix list! I love each one for different reasons. Hotel Del Luna helps viewers to accept the hard stuff, Her Private Life gives us hope, and so far the Crowned Clown helps people to remember what’s really important in life. Have you watched these dramas? Are there any that you’d recommend? Let me know in the comments!